I was keen to read this mostly for more tales of Tom Bombadil, as his part in The Fellowship of the Ring is one of my favourite bits in the Lord of the Rings series, especially his relationship with the trees and nature in the forest. The stories in this book were entertaining to read and I loved the imagination and charm and detail of them, and particularly the wonderful names of the characters.
I was keen to read this mostly for more tales of Tom Bombadil, as his part in The Fellowship of the Ring is one of my favourite bits in the Lord of the Rings series, especially his relationship with the trees and nature in the forest. The stories in this book were entertaining to read and I loved the imagination and charm and detail of them, and particularly the wonderful names of the characters. My two favourite stories are below:
I am just in awe of the imaginative details in this story, it just charmed me completely! Rover the dog is made into a toy dog by Artaxerxes, the wizard from Persia and Pershore, after he bit Artaxerxes’ trousers, although Artaxerxes had teased Rover by taking his ball. Rover is then sent by Artaxerxes to a toyshop where he is taken home by Little Boy Two. Rover is then lost at the seaside, although he did intend to run away anyway so is pleased at this. He is found by another wizard, a sand sorcerer called Psamathos Psamathides, who has legs like a rabbit, he allows Rover to move but cannot turn him back to his normal size, he offers to send Rover back to his original home with the old lady but Rover isn’t keen on this while being so small. Mew the postman seagull (I love this!) is summoned, who takes Rover along the moon’s path, and they fly over the Isle of Dogs which is where lost dogs go (I love this too!), and where there are bone trees (and love this!), and they pass the edge of the world, which is near Gwynfa (is this supposed to be in Wales?) and where waterfalls fall off the edge of the world and drop into space. Mew and Rover are travelling at 1000 miles a minute (!) to the Man-in-the-Moon who lives in a white tower at the top of the tallest mountain on the moon, he has a flying moon-dog who is also called Rover, so to distinguish them ‘our’ Rover becomes Roverandom.
Roverandom is given some wings, and he and Rover explore. Rover explains he roved all over the world until he fell over the world’s edge chasing a butterfly (I love it!) but luckily the moon was passing underneath and he landed on that, though he actually fell into an enormous silver net that the giant grey spiders spin and was rescued from the spider by the Man-in-the-Moon, who gave Rover wings and the instructions, “Don’t worry the moonbeams, and don’t kill my white rabbits, and come home when you are hungry, the window on the roof is usually open” (I feel this is almost a life lesson I should remember!) so Rover urges Roverandom to also remember these instructions. They live on the white side of the moon, where the scenery is pale with a dark sky. There are large fierce insects to avoid such as dragon-moths, and sword-flies, and glass-beetles with jaws, and unicornets with stings, as well as 57 varieties of spiders (eeek!) but the dogs bite their webs to set free the moonbeams (I love this!), and also shadowbats who are worse than all the insects. The flowers and grasses make music (of course!). There are also birds, but these are usually silent and very tiny with many of them having forgotten how to fly or lost their wings, they hunt little white mice and grey squirrels. There are also white moon-gnomes, also called moonums (I love this!), who ride on rabbits (I love this too!) and grow apple-trees the size of buttercups (I can just see it all in my mind!) in their orchards. There are also tiny sheep with golden bells, and an enormous white elephant (of course!). There are also dragons, particularly the Great White Dragon who chased the dogs, he has been down to the world before and fought the Red Dragon in Merlin and King Arthur’s time (I just love this detail!), he is a bad dragon who at times turns the moon red or puts it out altogether, and the Man-in-the-Moon has to use his spells to sort this out. It snows there, but the snow is nice and warm and turns into sand which blows away.
The Man-in-the-Moon spends his days making dreams for the other dark side of the moon. The dark side of the moon has grey mountains, not white like the white side of the moon, and half-forgotten things linger there and paths and memories get confused. The dark side of the moon is reached from the Man-in-the-Moon’s cellar in his tower, then down secret spiral steps under the mountains to a door in the floor which you have to fall through into the black space in the middle of the moon, and then fly with the wind to the edge of the hole on the other side which leads to a dark valley with dark hills and black clouds. The dark side of the moon has dark scenery with a pale sky and is wet, and has black spiders that aren’t as large as the spiders on the white side on the moon but are poisonous, and birds that sing songs that send you to sleep, as well as tiny fireflies and diamond-beetles, and ruby-moths who are hunted by huge eagle-sized owls and vulture-sized crows, and black-velvet bob-owlers (!) who fly in groups in the clouds, as well as shadowy rabbits, and pine trees. No-one has ever seen the dark side of the moon whilst awake. Children go there while asleep in their beds on the world, they dance and walk and run in a valley with grey fountains and long lawns, digging and gathering flowers and building tents and houses and chasing butterflies and kicking balls and climbing trees and singing, and there are hidden sentinels that keep them safe in this valley with a cliff of jet around it that the spiders can’t climb, Roverandom and the Man-in-the-Moon toboggan down the cliff when they visit. The Man-in-the-Moon makes the dreams for the children who visit there, though some children bring the dreams with them. If the Man-in-the-Moon throws the children up in the air while they are in the valley, they don’t fall down again so are given a silver rope by the Man-the-Moon to climb back down. When Roverandom visits the dark side of the moon with the Man-in-the-Moon, Little Boy Two is there and recognises Roverandom, he tells the boy all about his adventures, they play together, and the boy reminds Roverandom that he still belongs to him, then the boy vanishes as he has woken up back on the world.
The Man-in-the-Moon lets Roverandom look at the boy on the world through a telescope, and he sees Artaxerxes sat on their gate waiting for him. Roverandom tells the Man-in-the-Moon that he wants to go back to the boy so the boy’s dream can come true, the Man-in-the-Moon says this is now possible as Artaxerxes has married a mermaid and gone to live in the sea. Roverandom then goes back to the world on Mew, and Rover the moon-dog comes and visits him there later. Roverandom goes to Psamathos who tries to put him back to his normal size but can’t override Artaxerxes’ magic, Psamathos also intends to send Roveradum to his original home of the old lady, not to Little Boy Two, to Roverandom’s disappointment. Psamathos tells Roveradom he needs to go to Artaxerxes and beg his pardon, so he is taken down in a whale’s mouth, this is Uin who is the oldest of the Right Whales, to the bottom of the sea where it is green and a path of white sand winds through a forest and leads to a palace with sea-trees growing beside it where the fish swim in the branches. There are mer-people and sea-goblins and sea-fairies there. Artaxerxes lives in the palace, and is now the Pacific & Atlantic Magician and is married to the mer-king’s daughter, Princess Pam, who has a white mer-dog called Rover with webbed feet and a flat tail, she tells them “Don’t worry the fire-fish, don’t chew the sea-anemones, don’t get caught in the clams, and come back to supper”, and Roverandom is given a fishy tail and webbed feet so he can swim. Artaxerxes and Roverandom become involved with the Sea-Serpent who causes huge disturbances and chaos, Artaxerxes is unsuccessful in his attempts to control the Sea-Serpent and the Sea-Serpent states he will only stop his destruction if Artaxerxes is sent away, which the mer-people agree to and Artaxerxes leaves on the whale, with his wife and Roverandom. When they reach the shore, Roverandom asks Artaxerxes to put him back to his original size, and Artaxerxes agrees. Roverandom walks home and is greeted there by Little Boy Two. Artaxerxes retires as a wizard, and sets up a cigarette and chocolate shop by the beach.
Not such an involving tale as Roverandom with its wonderful details about different worlds and traditions, but the Ham tale has some great names and is fun. Aegidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo is Farmer Giles, he lives in Ham, a village in Little Kingdom. He has a talking dog called Garm, who is a spirited character. The story is set before the time of King Arthur. A giant comes to the area (from Wales?), and Farmer Giles gets rid of it more by chance than bravery or skill, but he is the king rewards him with a sword called Caudimordax, also known as Tailbiter, which belonged to the greatest dragon fighter of all time who was called Bellomarius, and the sword leaps out of its sheath when a dragon is nearby. The giant tells the dragons back home of the plentiful lands in Little Kingdom, and one dragon called Chrysophylax Dives, aka The Rich, goes there himself, with the result that ‘brave’ Farmer Giles is ordered to get rid of him. Farmer Giles tries to wriggle out of this task but has to obey in the end, though with no plan of how to defeat the dragon. However his sword leaps of its own accord to strike the dragon, who recognises the sword and is then submissive to Farmer Giles. The dragon is ordered by Farmer Giles to give up his riches and to carry these back to Ham, which he does and lives at Ham as a tame dragon for some time before being allowed by Farmer Giles to go home again. Farmer Giles becomes known as Lord of the Tame Worm. This therefore explains the history of the place names in the area (and I love this!) which correspond with modern places, such as the village of Thame in Oxfordshire being a mix of the Lord of Tame and the Lord of Ham, and Worminghall village in Aylesbury being the name of the house that Farmer Giles built, its name shortened to Wunnle in modern times.